An NYPD detective used photos of Woody Harrelson to track down a look-a-like thief when security footage of the actual crook didn’t turn up any results in the department’s facial recognition system, according to a new report.
The cop was hunting a perp caught on camera stealing beer from a Manhattan CVS in April 28, 2017, according to the report released Thursday by Georgetown University Law Center.
But when pixelated footage provided no matches from the system, he plugged in images of the thief’s celebrity doppelganger instead.
Harrelson’s mug turned up a list of hits, which were distributed to other cops — who eventually made an arrest, the report claims.
The NYPD also once used an image of a New York Knicks player in its database for a man wanted for assault in Brooklyn, the report says.
The report, titled “Garbage In, Garbage Out,” criticizes the unregulated use of facial recognition software by law enforcement.
“The stakes are too high in criminal investigations to rely on unreliable—or wrong—inputs,” writes author Clare Garvie.
“It is one thing for a company to build a face recognition system designed to help individuals find their celebrity doppelgänger … It’s quite another to use these techniques to identify criminal suspects, who may be deprived of their liberty and ultimately prosecuted based on the match.”
In a statement, the NYPD responded: “Facial recognition is merely a lead; it is not a positive identification and it is not probable cause to arrest. No one has ever been arrested on the basis of a facial recognition match alone. As with any lead, further investigation is always needed to develop probable cause to arrest.”
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